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Family Mediation Week is in full swing and during this week, family mediation services across the Country will campaign to promote family mediation and the benefits it has in assisting separated families to resolve family law disputes outside of the court process.

One of the key changes to family mediation most recently is the new guidelines which require all family mediators to consider the voice of the child within the mediation process.

As part of new guidelines, all specialist family mediators are to attend training to actively promote the voice of the child as part of the family mediation process.

Philippa Johnson, chair of the Family Mediators Association, explained: “Changes to the Code of Practice require all family mediators to encourage parents involved in family mediation to consider the wishes and feelings of their children. Really importantly, the Code now says that all children and young people aged 10 and above should be offered the opportunity to have their voices heard directly during the mediation, in line with government recommendations. No-one is saying that children should meet with a family mediator if they don’t want to; the point is that they should have the choice.”

Philippa confirms that: “The Family Mediators Association is very pleased indeed that the importance of children’s views has been made clear by the Code and that new rules mean that every family mediator is having to do extra training on how to make sure children’s views are heard.”

Ashley Palmer, a family mediator who works regularly with children and has co-authored the Handover Book, explained: “More and more separating couples are turning to family mediation as a way of resolving their difficulties. A major benefit of family mediation is that it puts the children’s needs at the heart of the conversation between the parents and these recent changes are giving children an even greater voice within family mediation.”

“Here at Yorkshire based mediation service, Consilia Mediation the voice of the child is paramount to the work that we do as mediators and will be considered and discussed with the parents in appropriate circumstances. Since setting up the practice in 2014, we have offered our mediation clients the opportunity for their child or children to engage in the mediation process through child inclusive mediation.”

Co-founder and head of family mediation, Laura Clapton is a direct child consultant which means that she is trained to speak to children as part of the mediation process. “By inviting a child into the mediation process, this not only gives that child the opportunity to have their voice heard but recognises that the issues their parents are trying to resolve impact upon the child’s future and they should therefore have the choice to have some input into those important life changing decisions. Child inclusive mediation is not about the child making the decisions or feeling that they are being asked to take sides, but its about saying we want you to have a say, we want to listen to your ideas.”

Child Inclusive mediation is an opportunity for a child to feel listened to, valued and respected. In turn this can assist their parents to understand them and take their opinion into consideration before finalising any arrangements.

In child inclusive mediation, the mediator meets the child on their own which gives the child the opportunity to talk to an independent person without having to filter their response and speak freely. The process is confidential and informal, and no pressure is placed on the child. Any conversation with the child is only discussed with the parents upon obtaining the permission of the child, subject to any safeguarding issues. At no point in the process is the child asked to make a decision. The sole purpose of the meeting is to provide the child with a safe environment to express their feelings, thoughts and concerns on proposals the parents are putting forward.

Accredited mediator Sarah Manning says, “Here at Consilia Mediation we welcome the new guidelines and think it is a positive step in the right direction to try limit hostility between separated parents. It encourages parents to take a step back and consider the needs, emotional wellbeing and wishes of any child or children involved when making important decisions about them.”

Throughout Family Mediation Week on the 21st to 25th January 2019, we are offering a FREE Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).

To book an appointment and take advantage of our FREE offer please quote #familymediationweek when making the appointment.

For more information about this initiative, please visit: http://www.familymediationweek